AT A GLANCE

The Advertiser - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR

IT’S a hot hatch, but not as we know it.

Suzuki has added a tur­bocharged boost to its Vi­tara SUV, just six months af­ter the ar­rival of the all-new model.

Pow­ered by a 1.4-litre tur­bocharged petrol en­gine, the flag­ship of the fleet un­der­cuts its peers on price (when com­pared against equiv­a­lent model grades), start­ing at $29,990 drive-away for the front-wheel-drive au­to­matic. A man­ual is not avail­able.

The all-wheel-drive ver­sion is $32,990 plus on-road costs; there is cur­rently no drive-away of­fer on this model.

Ac­cord­ing to Suzuki, the Vi­tara Turbo does the 0 to 100kmh dash in 9.5 sec­onds ver­sus a rather leisurely 12.5 sec­onds for the reg­u­lar non­turbo 1.6-litre model, which starts at $22,990 drive-away.

But when Cars­guide ran num­bers on the Vi­tara Turbo we recorded a string of iden­ti­cal 8.4-sec­ond 0-100km/h times, prov­ing it’s quicker than Suzuki’s claim, and ex­tremely con­sis­tent.

While that per­for­mance may still not get revheads ex­cited, it’s more than enough oomph for this class of “high rid­ing hatch­backs”. It’s also a help­ful pointer to what we can ex­pect when the next gen­er­a­tion Suzuki Swift Sport ar­rives in a cou­ple of years.

For some­thing that has so much fire in its belly the en­gine is sur­pris­ingly quiet; you can barely hear it or feel it at idle, and on the move it’s a smooth op­er­a­tor.

When ac­cel­er­at­ing, there is a slightly deeper sound to the en­gine note and the rush of en­ergy comes from low revs; there is no power de­lay or “turbo lag”.

It’s matched well to the sixspeed au­to­matic, which can be op­er­ated man­u­ally via tap shifters on the steer­ing wheel if you’re so in­clined.

Un­like most other en­gines in this class, the Vi­tara Turbo in­sists on pre­mium un­leaded (95 min­i­mum) but in re­turn it pro­duces ex­cep­tional fuel econ­omy num­bers. We saw an av­er­age of 6.6L/100km af­ter a 250km mix of free­way, city and sub­ur­ban driv­ing (skewed to­wards free­way run­ning).

The strong en­gine and trans­mis­sion combo thrive in the well-tuned chas­sis.

The steer­ing, sus­pen­sion and brakes are un­changed from the reg­u­lar Vi­tara model.

The brakes have strong bite, and the steer­ing makes the car feel much smaller than it is. It rides com­fort­ably over bumps and cor­ners with pre­ci­sion and con­fi­dence thanks to Euro­pean tun­ing (this Suzuki is made in Hun­gary) and su­perb Con­ti­nen­tal 17-inch tyres.

Un­like two of the reg­u­lar Vi­tara mod­els we road tested six months ago, the Turbo’s steer­ing doesn’t hunt or wan­der in the straight ahead po­si­tion at 80kmh. If there has been a sub­tle change in steer­ing cal­i­bra­tion (we sus­pect there has, for the bet­ter) Suzuki isn’t say­ing.

As the top of the Vi­tara range, the Turbo comes well equipped with LED head­lights, front and rear sen­sors, a rear view cam­era, Ap­ple CarPlay plus a built-in nav­i­ga­tion unit, auto up and down win­dow for the driver, cruise con­trol, sen­sor key, sports leather seats and steer­ing wheel with red stitch­ing, and red high­lights around the cabin air vents.

Just don’t go look­ing for a Turbo badge. The only way to pick this model is the black wheels (rather than grey) and ver­ti­cal bars on the grille (rather than hor­i­zon­tal).

The Vi­tara Turbo is im­pres­sive but there is still room for im­prove­ment.

It lacks a large dig­i­tal speed read­out in the in­stru­ment clus­ter, the guid­ing lines for the rear-view cam­era don’t turn with the steer­ing, and the doors need a de­cent shove to close prop­erly (as is the case with the reg­u­lar Vi­tara model).

We’re not sure if it’s the light weight of the doors or the strong rub­ber seals around the frame that make the Vi­tara doors hard to close, but it’s some­thing you quickly ad­just to.

A full-size spare would be a wel­come ad­di­tion, too, given there is so much avail­able boot space.

Over­all, though, the Vi­tara Turbo was a pleas­ant sur­prise. The ex­tra grunt com­ple­ments one of the sharpest han­dling and most com­fort­able of­fer­ings in the baby SUV class.

VER­DICT

The Vi­tara Turbo hits a sweet spot. It’s a hot hatch with a tall driv­ing po­si­tion, and is still com­pact enough to eas­ily ma­noeu­vre into or out of tight spa­ces.

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